Saturday, October 30, 2010

2010-11 Preview -- South Florida Bulls

Too Busy for the Details?
After surging to a 9-9 conference record in 2010, the highest conference win total since joining the Big East in 2006, the Bulls have some rebuilding to do. Coach Stan Heath has to replace an entire back court (typically the strong point of Heath-coached teams). The Bulls bring in a nice mix of 'new' (true freshmen) and 'old' (transfers & JUCOs), but it will take time (more than one season).  Prognosis -- A 4th quartile finish.

3 Years At a Glance
The Bulls' record tracks with returning minutes, suggesting the players under Heath do improve over time. Most of the minutes/points returning come from the front court -- as noted by the (much) higher percentage of returning offensive rebounds than returning three pointers made.


Dominique Jones, currently playing for the Mavericks, took 30% of the Bulls' shots while he was on the floor (and he was on the court a lot, logging over 90% of the off guard minutes in 2010). That is a very large offensive role to replace, especially since a single guard-in-waiting (transfer Anthony Crater) from the 2010 roster returns for 2011. Troubling too given the Bulls' rise in conference standing coincided with a marked improvement in their offense...mostly departed with DoJo (see According to Pomeroy... table below).

According to Pomeroy...
BE Off Eff103.51193.61498.413
BE Def Eff109.212106.310108.614
BE Off eFG%47.21443.51646.614
BE Off FTRate43.2131.2839.24
BE Off TO%18.8918.6819.69
BE Off Reb%36.1T734.5833.87
BE Def eFG%50.41348.8650.110
BE Def Reb%36.11134.51134.612

South Florida's offensive efficiency improved enough in 2010 to lift the Bulls out of the Big East's 4th quartile and into the NIT. The offense looks for points inside the arc (USF scored 57.7% and 24.4% of their points from 2FGAs and FTMs respectively, good for a #33 -- out of 347 -- ranking per Ken Pomeroy) either converting 2FGAs or getting to the free throw line. While offensive rebounding and turnovers have remained constant over the past three seasons, the Bulls converted field goal attempts marginally better in 2010 than 2009, and got to the line more. Defensive rebounding (defense overall actually) continued to be anemic despite the succession of well-regarded low post bigs featured in Bulls' lineups since 2006.

For the Record...
Big East990.5004140.2223150.167
Post Season?NIT Rnd #1BET Rnd #1NA

How far back does South Florida slide? The scoring percentages suggest a 2-3 win season, but I suspect Caoch Heath has other plans. The offense will most likely move closer to the basket and balance a bit better between front court and back court scoring.

The Bulls' Nucleus
Coach Stan Heath's biggest task this season will be developing South Florida's reshaped back court, composed largely of entering freshmen, JUCOs, and with a several returning rotation players (Noriega and Crater) into an effective offensive unit. The new elements have to work with the more experienced front court trio of Gus Gilchrist, Jared Famous and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick. Several will have to take up the offensive role assigned to DoJo, there is a plethora of guards (seven in all, in the range of 5-11 to 6-6) to choose from, mostly two or so will collectively cover the points provided by Jones.

On Offense
Jarrid Famous71.4102.020.819.452.712.21.1150.6
Toarlyn Fitzpatrick54.885.515.113.841.09.40.8843.6
Augustus Gilchrist38.1104.825.324.652.49.31.1654.5
Anthony Crater33.880.911.511.338.11.60.7925.4

Gilchrist and Dominique Jones were a significant "inside/less inside" threat last season. DoJo maybe gone, but Gilchrist is back. If he can stay healthy, he should have a large and positive impact on the offense, as the #1 or #2 option. The task for Coach Heath is to develop an outside threat and most probably at least one more consistent offensive option. Fitzpatrick had a typical freshman season. He should improve with experience. With offensive rebounding rates in the range of 9.3 to 12.2, all three of the front court players are keepers. Coach Heath should be able to find time for each.

On Defense
Jarrid Famous71.416.93.820.42.21.0
Toarlyn Fitzpatrick54.814.
Augustus Gilchrist38.
Anthony Crater33.86.713.324.90.52.6

Note the turnover rates for Famouns, Fitzpatrick and Gilchrist -- all were in the range of 20% or more. Cut down on the turnovers alone and each would increase by 5% - 7% on offensive efficiency. Anthony Crater, the Ohio State transfer who accounted for 33.8% of the playing time in a backcourt position last season, will most likely start at pg, though like Famous, Fitzpatrick and Gilchrist, he will have to limit his turnovers to be effective. Other returnees include sophomore deep bench guards Shaun Noriega who logged 68 minutes in 20 games last season and Mike Burwell who logged 92 minutes in 19 games.

Significant Additions
Coach Heath brings in a mix of true freshmen (2), transfers (1) and JUCOs (3); five of the six are guards. Among the freshmen, the coach's own son, 5-11 Jordan Heath, a point guard out of Tampa Prep is a walk-on. The other is 6-0, 200 pound LaVonte Dority of Edwin G. Foreman, Chicago. The last three guards, all JUCOs include 6-0 185 pound Shadrick Haynes, out of Lackawanna College, 6-5 195 pound Hugh Robertson, from Tallahassee CC and (possibly the most intriguing...) Jawanza Poland, a 6-4, 195 off guard who sat last season for Hutchinson CC after transferring in from Cowley College in Wichita, Kansas. Poland has not played organized (collegiate) ball in over 18 monthes. Count him very ready to get things going. Ron Anderson, a 6-8 255 pound bfc transferred in from Kansas State in 2009, has sat his year per the NCAA rules, and will be available at the beginning of this season. Anderson has two years of eligibility remaining.

Explode If...
1. Gilchrist can have a breakout season, but the Bulls will need more to match (or come close to) last season's nine conference wins. Someone from the back court or wing (Haynes? Poland?) will have to combine with a consistent third scoring option if opposing defenses are to be kept off balance. The third option won't have to be the same player each game, but between Famous, Crater, Robertson and Anderson, some combination will most likely have to contribute nine-tem points each game.
2. Find a perimeter game from among the new players. South Florida converted three point attempts at an attrocious 28.3% rate (all play) last season, ranking them #338 out of 347 in Division 1. Gilchrist and Famous should be able to keep defenses honest, but someone has to convert long-range attemtps consistently.
3. Rebounding is an area where significant improvement will translate immediately into more efficient defense. Despite having length and low post mass, the Bulls consistently ranked in the bottom third of the conference for defensive rebounding.

Implode If...
1. The players do not mesh. The back court, JUCOs and true freshmen, were assembled in the monthes after last April. Poland, Haynes, Robertson and Crater have had only fall practice together as a full squad. At the very least the out of conference should be interesting.
2. Off court distractions seem to be an annual recurring theme with the program. While most seem to be silly scrapes resulting from not thinking things through, player-on-player incidents, the type that can destroy team cohesion, have also happened.

Crucial Run/Bellweather Games
The out of conference (OOC) schedule is light on above "The Red Line" opponents, counting a maybe Texas Tech (South Padre Island Invitational, possible second round opponent...) have two. Auburn, visiting Tampa (a home-away agreement perhaps?) is heavy with newcomers, including their coach, and projected by many to finish at the bottom of the SEC Western Division, will probably not help the Bulls' RPI. There are however, a number of below The Red Line opponents who can nick up South Florida's record going into conference play. Chief culprits -- Brigham Young (Mountain West Conference) and Southern Mississippi (Conference USA), both of whom are expected to make the NCAAs in 2011. The Golden Eagles will open the Bulls' season at the Sun Dome, while the Cougars are the Bulls' first round opponent at South Padre Island. A second tier of below-the-Red-Liners includes Colonial Athletic Association members Virginia Commonwealth and James Madison, considered the class of the CAA, traditional rival Central Florida (CUSA, and with a new coach) and possibly West Coast Conference member St. Mary's. The Gaels will most likely not dance in the 2011 post season, but Coach Randy Bennett brings back three starters from the team that ran to the Sweet Sixteen. Sporting a record of 10-3 or better going into their conference opener (a road game against Seton Hall) would be bode well for Bull prospects, but not realistic.

Breaking down the Bulls' 9-9 2010 record, the key was holding serve (6-3) at home, while taking a few road games. Matching that win total may be a stretch without Jones, but if Coach Heath can coax five wins out of the conference schedule, South Florida can escape the fourth quartile for the second consecutive season. Drawing DePaul, Providence and Pittsburgh was definitely a mixed blessing. The Panthers will dominate while the Friars will struggle, so the mirror break will come with DePaul. The Demons will be sitting ducks on the road, but Oliver Purnell should have them playing better at home. Drawing that game late in the season may help USF, especially if they are within striking distance of five (or better wins). The five game stretch from the middle of January to early February should be a good predictor for the season, as that draw contains four winnable games: Providence at home (1/16), Rutgers (1/20, road), a trip to Morgantown (1/23, an improbable win), DePaul (1/27, at home) and closing out at Providence (2/2). If they can win four out of that run the chances of having five wins going into the BET are very good.

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